Suzanne may feel that bioidentical hormones are the best solution for her, but Dr. Lauren Streicher, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University and a practicing ob-gyn at Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital, has some concerns.
Dr. Streicher says the belief that compounded or "bioidentical" hormones are different and, therefore, safer and more natural than what you get from the drugstore is not factual. "The reality is that whether you go to your corner drugstore or your compounding pharmacy, you're most likely to get an estrogen that was synthesized," she says. "They're all synthesized from plants, and it has the exact same chemical structure."
There is one big difference if you go to a pharmacy that's not approved by the FDA, she says. "They have absolutely no obligation to support their claims. They can say what they want. ... That it's safer, that it has less side effects, that there are no risks, that it will prevent cancer," she says. "The truth is, you can get the exact same product in an FDA-approved pharmacy from true experts."
Dr. Streicher also wants to make one thing clear—"bioidentical" is a made-up term. "'Bioidentical' does not exist in any medical book," she says. "Marketers made it up. It sounds really catchy. It sounds scientific. It sounds natural."
Whether you're getting hormones from a compounding pharmacy or your corner drugstore, Dr. Streicher says you need to be monitored by a qualified physician.